Winnie the Pooh Banksy
Winnie the Pooh, sometimes referred to as Pooh Bear, was created in 2003 and is part of a series of 25 Winnie the Pooh canvas editions. It belongs to Banksy’s earliest collection of works on canvas, first displayed at Santa’s Ghetto, a collective exhibition containing paintings and prints by Banksy as well as works by Eine, Dface and Space Invader, set up annually in December in different locations around London. The second edition of Santa’s Ghetto, in 2003, took place in an abandoned store just off Carnaby Street, and drew an international and star-studded crowd.
Banksy’s image of Winnie the Pooh first appeared stencilled on a wall in Banksy’s hometown Bristol in 1999. Winnie the Pooh canvas editions in a series of 10 were seen again re-edited and for sale in October 2013 in New York City, on the occasion of Banksy’s month-long street exhibition known as Better Out Than In. On day 13 of the show, the artist – disguised as a typical street vendor – set up a stand in Central Park where he sold black and white editions for just $60. Without the artist’s identity revealed only eight of the works were sold. The following day, in true Banksy style, the artist authenticated those canvases on his website declaring, “Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each”. A year later, an edition of Winnie the Pooh purchased during Banksy’s New York residency sold for over £56,000.
Winnie the Pooh represents English author Alan Alexander Milne's famous Winnie the Pooh character. Banksy’s rendition is based on Ernest Howard Shepard's original cuddly bear illustration. The work depicts Pooh as a stencilled black and white figure in spray paint on canvas. The much-loved bear is pictured weeping under a tree, his foot caught in a bear trap. In place of Pooh Bear’s famous honey pot is a pot of money, lying on the ground next to him. The monochromatic scene infers that even the nations beloved Pooh has been caught out in his quest for money. Milne's famous teddy bear, known for his genuine naivety and simple-mindedness, is a universal symbol of childhood innocence. Banksy's rendition is a depiction of the loss of that innocence, with Pooh’s honeypot transformed into a symbol for money and materialism.
The arresting image can be interpreted to be a comment on the hastening lack of innocence apparent in today’s youth culture, a community at the mercy of society’s preoccupation with materialism. Childhood and the concept of innocence and corruption is a recurrent theme in Banksy’s work. Often young characters at the heart of absurd or comical situations are central in his work. Such examples can be seen in Jack and Jill, Stop and Search, No Ball Games and perhaps his most iconic work, Girl With Balloon.